From the Archives

On our collective discomfort with JonBenet Ramsey

From a January 1997 column by City Pages Editor Steve Perry:

Much has already been written about the sexualization of JonBenet Ramsey and all the other girls in the thousands of little-miss pageants across the country. We would do well not to ignore its obverse, which is the fetishizing of children's innocence--particularly that of girl children--as a means of sustaining the culture's perverse faith in its own unspoiled nature. The cult of innocence is the root of our claim to be a child-loving society, and one of the most salient measures of our child-loathing. The promise of JonBenet on the runway, playing grown-up fantasy object, is the promise of all things desirable, had without responsibility or consequence at the expense of a child: a promise not of her innocence but the onlooker's. This is obscene. But it's hardly more obscene than a quarter of the nation's children living in poverty, or the willful addition of a few million more by the Clinton/Gingrich welfare overhaul, all so that an increasingly well-off minority can enjoy the good life, without responsibility or consequence, at the expense of other people's children.

Perry's gritty, visceral column has haunted many of us in the intervening decade, and I daresay the capture yesterday of Ramsey's alleged killer only makes it seem all the more prescient.